ESI has announced the U168 XT and U86 XT, two USB 2.0 high-speed audio interfaces for Mac and PC that bring better performance to USB audio technology for better results.
As implied by name, U168 XT provides no fewer than 16 clearly-labelled line INPUTS and eight line OUTPUTS on balanced 1/4-inch TRS (Tip Ring Sleeve) connectors. Competitors’ comparable channel count offerings often add eight-channel ADAT (Optical Interface) ports, potentially adding confusion to that count — clearly not an issue with U168 XT, where all are available for simultaneous usage by discerning users. Ultimately, this full-featured 24-bit/96kHz solution also includes four integrated MICROPHONE preamps with XLR (External Line Return) inputs and switchable +48V phantom power, perfectly positioned on its front panel for easy access alongside two (switchable) MIC/HI-Z high-performance instrument inputs (1/4-inch connector) for electric guitars; plus (rear-mounted) coaxial S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format) IN (input) and OUT (output) on RCA (Radio Corporation of America) connectors. Two independent headphone (H.P.) outputs are also easily accessible alongside an integrated monitoring mixer. Meanwhile, external keyboards, synthesizers, and sound modules can be connected via the 16- channel MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) with an INPUT and OUTPUT on the unit’s rear panel.
Providing fast, high-performance, low-latency drivers based on proprietary DirectWIRE technology — that can be used for routing audio streams internally within applications using ESI’s EWDM (Enhanced Windows Driver Model) — with support for the latest WDM (Windows Driver Model), ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output) 2.0, and CoreAudio technology for both Mac (OS X 10.7 and above) and PC (Windows Vista, 7, 8.1, and 10), U168 XT works with all current standard audio applications available for professional usage.
As an equally versatile USB 2.0 high-speed audio interface for Mac and PC with an ADC (analogue-to-digital conversion) dynamic range of 107dB(a) and DAC (digital-to-analogue conversion) dynamic range of 112dB(a), U86 XT shares the same flexible feature set and functions as its U168 XT bigger brother, but with a reduced number of physical analogue inputs (eight) and outputs (six) — hence its appropriate appellation — and reduced (310 x 145 x 45mm) dimensions (down from U168 XT’s 450 x 145 x 45mm). Either way, with stylish and sturdy casings designed to work wherever their final destination may be, both bundle packages come complete with an eight-track version of Bitwig Studio, the namesake next-generation music creation and performance software solution from Berlin-based Bitwig as well as a license for DJ specialist Stanton’s Deckadance LE software. Simply start working… straight out of the box.
Both the U168 XT and U86 XT more than live up to their raison d’être of bringing better performance to USB audio technology for better results, as anyone adding either one of the progressive pair to their setup should surely delight in discovering.
U168 XT starts shipping worldwide in early May 2017 with an MSRP of 549 EUR; U86 XT follows in early June 2017 with an MSRP of 399 EUR.